British Bombing an Escalation of Eco-Violence

For years, hard-line American animal rights activists have followed as their British counterparts led the way in increasingly violent attacks on their enemies. It was British activists who were the first to physically attack executives of companies they disliked, a technique since emulated in the United States. By the time the fringe of the American animal rights movement began bombing buildings and engaging in widespread arson, their British counterparts had been doing so for years.

Once again, British hard-liners seem to be leading the way. This fall, the British section of the Animal Liberation Front claimed the Sept. 7 bombing of the home of Paul Blackburn, the corporate controller of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). He was singled out because his firm is a customer of the animal testing corporation Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), the most visible target of eco-radicals today. It was the first known bombing of an individual's home claimed by the ALF, although ALF activists have made bomb threats and, in one case, set off a smoke device at a scientist's home. Other animal rights extremists have sent letter bombs.

The porch of Blackburn's Buckinghamshire home was damaged. Blackburn was out of the country at the time, but his wife and child were home.

The ALF, which openly advocates arson and other crimes but claims to oppose violence directed at humans, took responsibility on a Web site. "We realize that this may not be enough to make you stop using HLS, but ... this is just the beginning," the statement from "Brigade G" of the ALF said. "We have identified and tracked down many of your senior executives and also junior staff, as well as those from other HLS customers. Drop HLS or you will face the consequences."

In another case of animal rights extremism that riveted the British public, police in late September arrested five people during dawn raids in connection with the theft of an elderly woman's body from her grave. After the remains of Gladys Hammond were stolen in October 2004, her family was told they would only be returned if the family shut down its Newchurch farm, which breeds guinea pigs for use in experimental medical research. Ultimately, the family complied.